4 things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding

by threegirlpileup

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!  This post is part of the October Carnival of Breastfeeding, “What I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding.”

nursing nose

My time as a breastfeeding mother is winding down.  My youngest is five years old, and though she still nurses a little, it is literally for a minute or two each day.  As I look back on my eight-plus years of consecutive nursing, it’s interesting to reflect on those early days, when I was still figuring out what breastfeeding was all about.  There was so much that I learned along the way–that breastfeeding was so much more than food, for example.  But there were a few things that I wish I had known from the beginning –I would have saved myself a lot of grief!  Here are the top four:

1. Many breastfeeding moms had a rough start. We really struggled at the beginning.  My daughter aspriated meconium, so she was deep-suctioned and sent to the NICU.  We didn’t even try to get her latched on until more than 12 hours after she was born–and she wouldn’t have any of it.  It was more than a week before she really latched at all, and in retrospect we didn’t really get into a groove until she was about six months old.  Although I knew one person who also struggled with breastfeeding, she eventually gave it up.  So it seemed to me that everyone around me was able to breastfeed easily, and somehow I just didn’t have the right chemistry with my baby to make it work like they did.  Thank goodness I finally went to a La Leche League meeting!  I had been avoiding them, because I thought it would be too painful to be around lots of moms who were nursing easily.  Instead, I made connections with many moms who were having their own struggles, and yet still making it work–just like me.

2.  Babies nurse really really frequently, and this is totally normal. Like most newborns, Maggie nursed all. the. time.  Less typically, she nursed in very short bursts.  Honestly, I thought that she just wasn’t very good at nursing.  Luckily, when she was a few weeks old, I spent the day with two moms from my childbirth class.  I knew that breastfeeding was going very smoothly for both  of them.  And guess what?  Their babies nursed all the time, too!

3.  You don’t have to pump and give your baby a bottle. From the beginning, I assumed that pumping and bottle-feeding was just part of breastfeeding.  How else would I be able to leave the baby?  How else could I feel sane?  Ironically, we did bottle-feed Maggie a little at the beginning, when breastfeeding wasn’t going well.  But later, when we tried to give her the occasional bottle of pumped milk, she refused entirely.  It honestly never occurred to me that I could just let it go; after all, I wasn’t going back to work, and had no need to be separated from Maggie for any length of time.  As time went by,  and Maggie never did take a bottle, I realized that it really wasn’t necessary.  For me, it worked to limit my separations from her to the length of time she could go without nursing.  Before I knew it, those times got longer and she was starting to eat solid foods.   Obviously, this isn’t a solution that would work for everyone, but I do think it’s worth realizing that it is one option.

4.  The best way to get large-sized nursing bras is to order them from England. (I realize that this doesn’t apply to everyone, but figuring this out really improved my life as a nursing mom.)  I had a hard enough time finding bras to fit before I had a baby, but once I was nursing, it was nearly impossible.  I spend my first year of motherhood wearing ill-fitting bras.  It was hard enough adjusting to my new mama body without feeling dumpy because of my bras.  Around Maggie’s first birthday, I found these wonderful bras, which run into cup size K (!), give great support, and look good under a t-shirt.  Turns out, the English have large breasts, so it’s the place to get large bras.  Bravissimo is an English company specializing in large size bras, and they have several nursing bras, including this one.

It seems like a million years ago that I sat in the NICU, wondering how in a million years that I would get that little baby to latch on and nurse.  Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have many people to help us as Maggie and I tried to figure out breastfeeding.  I look forward to the day when all of us birth our babies and are filled with wisdom about breastfeeding and the confidence that we can do it–because it’s what we’ve seen all around us, in our communities and in our families.  In the meantime, I hope these little tidbits can help new moms get breastfeeding off to a smoother start.  Visit the other carnival participants to glean some other wisdom from mamas who’ve been there:

Sarah Fancy Pancakes: Wish I’d Heard More Good Things
The Milk Mama: When breastfeeding begins badly, and what I should have done about it
Hobo Mama: What I wish I’d known when I started breastfeeding
My World Edenwild: What I Wish I’d Known Then: A Poem
Happy Bambino: I wish I had known then that it wasn’t up to me alone
Birth Activist: What I Wish I Would Have Known About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: You Don’t Have to Grin and Bear It
Momma’s Angel: What I Wish I’d Known Then: My List For Next Time
The Starr Family Blogg: I Wish I Would Have Known
Whozat: If I’d Known Then
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: What I wish I’d known back then about breastfeeding
Fighting Frumpy: When Breastfeeding Feels Wrong
Breastfeeding Mums: 15 Breastfeeding Facts I Wish I’d Known as a First Time Breastfeeding Mum
Cave Mother: Nursing Wisdom
Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Trust Yourself and Your Bod
Mum Unplugged: Breastfeeding: What I Wish I’d Known Then
Blacktating: Breastfeeding is Life-Changing